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Rachel Cox Education. (2012) 'Into Dust and Fire Five Young Americans Who Went First To Fight the Nazi Army.'

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Egypt 8, England 8, Tunisia 7, America 7, North Africa 6, United States 5, Vermont 5, Charles Mclean 4, Cairo 4, Europe 2, Manchester 2, Windsor 2, Tom Littlefield 2, Thurman 2, St. 2, Germany 2, Libya 2, Africa 2, New Hampshire 2, Us 2,
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  CSPAN    Book TV    Rachel Cox  Education.  (2012) 'Into Dust and Fire Five  
   Young Americans Who Went First To Fight the Nazi Army.'  

    November 22, 2012
    4:30 - 5:30pm EST  

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evangelical and those involved in the political process. so he was at the forefront of all of those issues. he had national defense, he played an important role in right-wing anti-communist popular politics and the late 50s and early 60s, this is one of the things that led him to switch parties, he opposed labor unions. he switches in the 50s and 60s, and by 1970, there were some diehard supporters of this. and there was also an important role in conservative and evangelical policy.
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he joins the board of bob jones university and he does it to win votes. bob jones had just moved his university. and thurman needed those votes. he lost in 1958 to the senate. that began a long relationship with a conservative and fundamentalist and evangelical persons who are looking to get involved in the process. we need to understand the racial politics in the midst of these conservative issues that he was very involved with. to see how they intersect with one another. i think in doing so, it gives us a history of what it looks like and helps us rethink not only what was going on in the south, but what was going on in the national and conservative
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political realm as well. the history of modern conservatism, a history that thurman is left out because we only remembered this cartoonish figure from the deep south. >> you can watch this and other programs online at booktv.org. >> you're watching booktv. now a decision by five men to leave their ivy league schools and join the british army in the spring of 1941. six months prior to pearl harbor and america's involvement in world war ii. this is about one hour. >> thank you. thank you so much. thank you for the kind introduction and thank you for introducing me the epicenter of support in the united states.
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thank you to c-span and booktv to making me feel like oprah winfrey, if only for an hour. it is wonderful to be here. isn't it everything that a bookstore should be? i am thrilled to be here at the north shire. i am also happy to be in vermont because i have long-standing family ties with the state and i have ties with the state. my book really got started here in vermont. when i was a little girl, i used to spend my school vacations with my grandmother who lived in a federal style house on main street in windsor, vermont, on the connecticut river. i spent the summers lolling around, reading and imagining what it was like to live there.
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one was like to live there before i was born. my father had a big family. he had two sisters and four brothers. the most famous of them would be archibald cox, he was a watergate special prosecutor. when i was growing up, my father's brother, who really fascinated me, was the one who is missing from the family. he had been killed, which at that time was world war ii. my grandmother kept mementos of him around the house. she was a little reticent about anything private anyway. she kept a wonderful photograph in her bedroom that showed him with a frames-based like a halo, almost.
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i knew that he had been athletic, she had a photograph of him in his hockey skates and sweater and he had gone to the st. paul school in concord new hampshire, which was the first spartan episcopalian boarding school person. she kept him and his trophies in the dining room. one of them was known as the best model citizen for boys. i knew that he had been killed in 1943. i knew that he fought for the british, not the americans. i knew he had gone ahead of america as a whole. i grew up and became a journalist. i lived through the war in vietnam, which raised a lot of interesting questions about war and its value. as i said, i became a journalist.
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about six years ago i was casting around for a book idea and i thought i should poke around a little and see what i could learn about my uncle. was he really is a relic as he had looked to me when i was a child. so i did. the first person i got in touch with was an old family friend named charles mclean who was a retired professor at dartmouth. to my astonishment, i discovered he spent the day with my uncle on the very day that it was decided they would go to war. it was may 31, 1941, they were both seniors in college. my uncle at harvard and charles mclean at dartmouth. they met up at st. paul for what was homecoming at other schools that involved lasers and lots of
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crew races. at the end of may in 1941, what was happening in europe was foremost on people's minds. hitler had ridden roughshod almost everyone. the draft had been reinstated in the united states. so most of the people who were about to graduate from college were very concerned about what would happen next. would they be drafted? did they want to join the war? college campuses were embroiled in controversy as much as they were when i was in school. there was the isolationists who wanted americans to stay out, the interventionists who believe that they should be in. all of this was on my uncle's mind and he had learned that college about an opportunity to join the british army as an officer candidate in what they called a smart regimen in
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england. it actually first started in the american colonies in the 1750s during the french and indian war and they wanted to bring in some columnists who knew something about the landscape and who could help about the indians and the french. of course, when the american revolution came, in 1941 when the british were desperate to get the united states involved in the war, the few great minds in england, such as the prime minister, and even, had done what they could to make arrangements to bring what would be 18 americans to join them. another fellow from harvard would be two of the first to join. now, that night, he tried to convince him and they talked
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over the pros and cons. by the end of the evening when my uncle went back to cambridge, he had made up his mind for sure that charles mclean wasn't quite so sure what he would do. but he headed back to talk about the ideas with some of his close friends who were very committed interventionist leaders of the interventionists movement at dartmouth. to start, i would like to read a little bit about what happened that night as charles mclean left my uncle in new hampshire. and i would like to read a little bit about what happened almost 20 years later when i met with him in his small room in hanover is a much older man. >> excited, mclain raced back to hanover. locating his friends, it took a matter of minutes. the members all slept under the
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eaves in chile open attic that they call the wind tunnel. no sooner had they comprehended the news and they rushed off to find tom littlefield, who shared an apartment on main street. more discussion and debate among the friends would follow. within weeks, would be received and approved. tom littlefield, was rejected on account of a bum shoulder. but that night, may 31, 1941, the die was cast. they were to offer themselves to become british soldiers in the king's royal rifle corps. and in six weeks, they would ship out for england. other men would follow, 18 americans in all joined, and
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some 17 months later, the u.s. army itself would finally enter the fray. these five young men went first and in war, timing is truly everything. before going to sleep that night, this is when i talked to him seven years later, charles mclean, as in his habit, wrote in his diary. see five years later in the book line rooms where he lived alone, he showed me the entry. seemed to have surprised him. it was not a viable thought or emotion during those days. cox had started me thinking. he wants me to go with him. the idea is very attractive. it is exciting. but i am dubious of the chance of coming back.
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well, i knew a good quote when i heard one, even though it kind of gave me the shivers. even though he foresaw the situation. so i asked him to put me in touch with the descendents and relatives of the others. and he did so. and they produced an amazing pile of journals and letters and reminiscences, and it became clearer and clearer that this was a story that really needed to be told. i thought at the time it wouldn't be too difficult to tell. it turned out to be a little harder than i expected. but in any case, one of the hardest things about it, because these guys turned out to be so articulate and funny and well read and thoughtful, one of the hardest parts was when two tell my own voice and quote from
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other things. to get back to the story, in july 1941, these five young men, three from dartmouth and two from harvard, they met up in new york at the saint regis for a drink. they went to finalize paperwork, which mostly amounted to making sure that they had a birth certificate. they were not dealing with passports. there were certain restrictions on going overseas to fight for the army, so they skirted around now. they all got on the train to halifax and waited there a few days. then they joined a convoy of some 60 votes loaded with everything from sugar toupees and of course the military
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escorts, this is the way you try to get across the north atlantic without being torpedoed by submarines were sunk by airplanes. they did get across. they arrived at the beginning of august of 1941. they went down to winchester, england, which was about 30 miles out of london and joined the british comrades. they were a little bit disappointed to discover they weren't going to get off the vote and get on the battlefield. i think they had the idea that you went to war the way you into a war movie. you joined up the menu on the battlefield fighting for what was right and good area they got to know their comrades, most of
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them are comrades from east london and were leery as much of the time. it took them a little longer to warm up to the upper crust 19-year-old aristocrats just out of what we would call at school, what they would call public school, who were going to be officers, like the american guys were. in the end, he seems to like them. he fell madly in love with an irish woman who was part of the woman's royal naval service. i have to tell this since we are in a bookstore. one of the things they did, they were both great leaders. just keeping in touch with each other, each of them would read a book. and as they did so, they were bright their thoughts and opinions and when they finished it, each of them would send it to the other and it was like
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reading the book together. i thought that was a wonderful idea. they also did some things that your average english soldier could not do. because they were americans, they became propaganda stars and they were constantly being photographed and posed for photographs, what your ticket number. but i guess it leaves the ministry in england because they were the leading edge of americans, which the british were desperate for at that point. a man named john gilbert weinman, who is one of the great underappreciated figures in history. the time in england was great training. they went off to officer training in november 1941. by april of 1942, they had been commissioned as officers and one this symbolic baton, the best
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all-around training in his class. they were all very proud of that. by april of 1942, of course, the situation had changed a little, because in the summer of 1941, the japanese bombed pearl harbor. germany declared war in the united states. something that a lot of historians think was hitler's greatest mistake. the american soldiers were at camp when this occurred. it was a huge celebration and people recognized that it was a bit of a tragedy for the united states, they were being forced to stand alone against the german war machine. finally in july of 1942, five americans shipped out for the battlefield. at that point, the nazis controlled the mediterranean.
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so to get to north africa, which is where the british were at that point fighting each other, they had to go all the way around the bottom of 13,000 miles and it's crazy to think of it. almost everything but went to the battlefield -- they had to make this amazingly long journey that took a month. maybe more like six weeks. my uncle, i learned, had his own very passionate love affair while in cape town and they reached u.s. and egypt on september 3, 1942. i should probably give a little background on the war in africa. when historians talk about it can use metaphors like pendulum, it was this peculiar sort of
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rhythm of war that began in the fall of 1940. mussolini had visions of grandeur, he wanted to ride his streets down the roads of cairo and he decided to attack the british doing it. the british attacked back and drove the italians pretty far west into libya, at which point hitler realized that he really needed to bail out, although don't think he was happy about it. so he sent in or when ronald, along with a bunch of others and he effectively drove the british back into egypt. now, when the summer rolled around, things will quiet down and it was terribly hot. the campaigning with its glory
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would stop. they would advance then into libya in hopes of driving the forces back. ronald turned around and press the british back again. all the latest time, sort of disastrously, into egypt, deeper than they had ever been before. so when the american soldiers arrived, the british allies and the axis forces -- the idea in testing each other, which was about 60 miles west of alexandria, close enough to alexandria, which was the british naval center in egypt, close enough to cairo, to be very dangerous and i think extremely frightening to all of the allies.
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beyond that where the middle eastern oil fields. and just as they are now, they were critical to the british war effort. it was a very tense moment and an important moment. on september 3, they steamed up the red sea and into the suez canal. they went off to their training camps to prepare for battle along the line. another bit of background. in doing research for this book, i was lucky enough to go to egypt and tunisia and england. and i went to see this line. it looks like every other part of the egyptian desert, which is to say that it was sandy and flat and rocky. you cannot imagine why this would be the point where the two armies came to a halt. the reason is it was blocked on the north by the mediterranean sea. on the south, there was kind of a marsh area which it is
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impossible for heavy vehicles, such as tanks, one of his tricks when he was fighting was to go around the opposing army and jump on them from behind. so that cannot happen here. the english were pouring material into the spot, getting ready to fight. when they got to egypt for the first time in more than a year, they were separated into two groups. they went down to the southern end of the line and they were very famous, it was a famous part of the british army. they sent off for the second battalion and went to the north end of the wind. line. between the two groups, they
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pretty much saw most of the battle and it finally came on october 23. now, i'm going to do a little discretion since we are hearing about hurricanes, to redo something that i wrote about my uncle's trip from his training battalion in egypt to the frontline. what i've tried to do throughout the book is tell the story as they saw it. this is trying to get inside his mind as he drives across the egyptian desert in october of 1942. >> when the great day came for him to join the second the talent, every british officer has a kind of survey.
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he unloaded his possessions and set off early on the road towards cairo. it was his first trip of any length, but he had driven and was excited to travel on his own for a change. the morning air was cool and the sky brightening to a crisp and sharp blue, like a fall morning in new england. he felt migratory with all his belongings strapped onto the jeep and with boots and blankets, it seemed like the trip that his family made twice yearly. moving between new jersey and vermont. things were wide and fertile. the land was absolutely flat in a way that cox found unsettling. he was aware that he had yet to experience the blue, which is what the veterans called the desert. that he had spent considerable time contemplating the
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infantry-based depot and to his continual amazement, the young man who had always thought lakes important, he left them. perhaps it was their geometric barrenness and when conditions were drier and hotter, perhaps he would not have left them so well, the low level sands stretch far away. he remembered traveling from an antique land. as they near cairo, there were the three great. punctuated in the perfect line of the horizon like an ancient geometry lesson. for all of its flatness, it would've been, if he could have been allowed for a moment to think of the unthinkable, and unbelievably beautiful sight should they ever see it. this is a good were out here, in that respect, he wrote home. the lush green land is a goal, and we have our goal, which is
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the direction of home and the traditional american direction. he had been looking forward to spending christmas and memcpy. he thought that after that, the elves would be nice. or better still, the italians. all army vehicles in the deserts have their windshield removed to prevent the wind and sand. it was painfully so. the violence of sand and wind took him back to the fall of 1938 when he and his mother, quite unknowingly, had migrated home from the great hurricane that would be remembered as the long island express. they had dropped off his younger brother for his first year at st. paul in the rain and it had been raining for days.
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then they returned to windsor. they were aware that the rivers were rising and the flooding was occurring in western vermont. but flooding was a regular part of the change of season and happens like clockwork each spring. the family had been anxious about their safety, but no one said a word hurricane. rob and his mother were eager to get home. the next morning before they left, uncle louie made him promise them promise to stop at the water got too high. and whatever happened, to telephone him at 9:00 p.m. they pulled onto route five in the pouring rain and by lunchtime when they reached the town of connecticut, northwest of hartford, the rain had stopped. his mother bought him a nice steak for lunch. you can drive me around for about three days and he really deserved a good lunch. you can have anything you want.
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for a while after they had finished, they stood on the porch with the restaurant owner looking around at the stillness. not a drop of rain or a breath of air disturbed a. the winds started out at about the same time they did, absolutely terrific, as his mother would say. they were having a wonderful time. they knew people in every town near the road. they drove on. then the back got worse. everywhere, cars had stalled out or got stuck that they sailed on and on, feeling wonderful. looking back later, the unexpected destructiveness have become confused with the growing menace in europe.
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moving onto czechoslovakia in the fall and would be strange in that seemed to follow like the eye of a hurricane. each part of act of aggression. when they reached home, they still haven't grasped the full extent of the storm damage. plainville had been windy where they lived in new jersey. the less so than other places. when the telephone rang with news that his sister, visiting relatives was fine, she couldn't understand why they were calling. later that night when uncle lee got through, they gained a sense of the damage. he had to leave his house and fight his way to the telephone office. all along main street, big elms
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have fallen. the virgin pine forest was in unrest. it is now a beautiful park, but it no longer has these amends virgin pines over there in the '30s. it was racked. the woods, mom would say later, looked as if a giant had been playing jacks throughout. everywhere we went and never again the same. that was part of his personal family loss. it would be nearly two years more before all hell broke loose around the globe. so this is a digression. now we have to go back egypt in 1942. but but what was interesting and away was what was about to happen at this point is all hell was about to break loose to him. he learned how to operate a gun
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that was 6 pounds. .. >> it was clear the day of battle was approaching. they kept repeating the same exercise, marching through simulated mine fields, three at a time during the same amount of period they were trained for the assault that began on the night of october 23rd, just about 70 # years ago, four days ago. i would like to now read another short bit which describes what
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it was like for jack at the southern end of the line as the night of battle arrived, and they were ordered into action. as dusk fell on the western desert, 10,000-plus men of the southern armored division mountedded the vehicles and jockeyed for places in column. the thunder of tank engines throbbed in their ears. four lines comprising gun carriers, troop carriers, jeeps, tanks, antitank guns, and trucks traveled across the sand. columns lurched forward, the march began. they passed into narrow lanes cleared through the mine fields by the sappers of the 44th reconnaissance regimen aided by tanks for mine clearance. cotton lighted the edges and lighted the lanes at regular improvised with street lamps made by petrol tins, gliming
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dimly where it was cut out of the metal on the eastern side. the american side dark to prevent enemy detection. four and a half hours later, at 9:40, just as planned, the sky behind the advancing men caught fire. the crack and boom of the opening barrage piled noise upon noise on the horizon so that the force of sound racing up propelled them. in the desert now, a man could shout or laugh or scream or cry and no one would hear him. the power of it was overwhelming, thrilling. a man might feel puny and yet immense, both at once. the full moon rose. the hard ground cooled. the steady advance of the first battalion churned to dust. each driver following the black sill silhouette of the feck in front. activity increased, bullets
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streaks of light across the night in all directions. armor pierces shots skidded to earth like lightning and radiated upward. the men reached the end of the ally's mine fields passing into no man's land. here, soldiers of the reconnaissance regimen going about business like moonlit phantoms escorting prisoners, gathering ammunition from a knocked out vehicle, helping out the wounded. some wounded themselves, others just lay where they had fallen awkwardly, bodies fractured, and amid, strangely, utterly still. well, the battle went on for 12 more days, of course, chaos, hell. it did not go according to plan, although, general month come ri, the leader of the 8th army argued for the rest of the life that it had.
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i go into a lot of detail in the book. i'll spare you now, but sufficive to say the allies prevailed, and -- unfortunately, four of the five americans there did not get it through unsaved. hayward cutting and bill derke were machine gunned in the knees, spent months and months in the hospital learning to walk again. chuck took a shell fragment in the thigh and had to spend a month in the hospital wondering if he was going to keep his leg, and in the end, it was amputatedded to save his life. my uncle was shot in the back, but fortunately, just a little bit to one side of the spain so he spent a couple months in the hospital, but when he was better, he went back in action and joining jack, who, by this time, was, oh, nearly 2,000 miles further along the edge of north africa, and on february
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2nd, 1943, they went into tunisia. now, it's important to know by this time the american army had entered the fray, on november 8th, 234 -- in an operation called torch. general patton and others and a large number of soldiers landed in algeria and morocco, and with the british, marched fought, often with heavy losses east into tunisia where they took a little while, but eventually met up with the british 8th army, and the idea was they could then sort of expel the ally -- sorry, expel the forces from north africa from tunisia which would be the launching ground for the invasion of italy, scheduled for that summer and fall of 1943. by february 1943 when my oping l
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-- uncle arrived in tunisia, it was clear it was a good idea, and the american army suffered a lot learning how to fight, it was pretty clear they would prevail in north africa, but it would be a couple more months of really difficult fighting before that came to pass. tunisia is not flat as a pancake like egypt. it is mountainous. they had good observation points on the mountain tops, making it difficult for the 8th army and american armies to advance through the passageways of the mountains. it was difficult, bloody fighting. unfortunately, both my uncle and jack were -- lost their lives in the process. by may, germany had declared defeat in north africa and moved into italy to get ready for the next round so to speak so in conclusion, then, i'd like to
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talk about the motivation of my uncle and going t war. this was one of the subjects that fascinated me about him learning about him and the other four americans. they didn't have to go when they went, but they believed it was the right thing to do. there were other reasons to i leave to you. i hope you read the book and draw conclusions. they each had their own reasons, but i'll read what my uncle had to say on the subject. after he was killed, my grandmother received his personal possessions back again, all the way from north africa, and among them, a letter he wrote to her in cape town rating to go to egypt and go into action. a letter to be opened in the event of my death, he called it. i'll read to you what he said -- i'll read you part of that. dearest em, it begins. i've thought infrequently of
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writing the letter, and each timed shied from it. first, it's like the heroics that prevent clear thoughts, and second, that i'm sure i shouldn't be killed, making the writing self-indulgence, undignified. i'm strong for dignity in the sense worthy of a man. on the other hand, i do not need to tell you why i came, i could not tell you fully. billy, that's what they all called his uncle for unexplained reasons. billy saidings when i talked to him about it, that as far as he could see, there were four reasons for going. nothing better to do, adventure, curiosity, and belief. i came for all four. mostly for shame. i was ashamed of america. i love america.
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i would not sit mediocre while america was attacked. for america's not just a place between two oceans. america is a face, and because it is a face, must be dynamic or perish. do you know what it written on the statue of liberty? i did once, but i forgot. i will write what i would put there. send me your oppressed, for i will give them freedom. send me despised, for here they will be a noble. one day the dream will be fact. a child who loves a ball throws it in the air. a miser reveling in gold clutches a handful and holding if aloft letting it stream gleaming in the sunlight. even thus, i, who love life, know life is not worth nothing if not worth risking. evil came amongst us saying put yourself in the balance with me. are you not glad to do it?
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you are -- i am, you are glad too for i am happy. bless the friends i love so well, but, above all, you, em. life is good, brother, there's a wind on the heath. all my love, rob. that's the end. thank you very much. i'd be -- [applause] i'd love to answer any questions you might have. comments are welcome also. >> the written language suffered so much. we tweet three words now, and
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the letters and journals of that time were just so incredibly graphic because there was no other way to help express what was going on in their lives, and they were -- they could put their hearts into their words, and you were so fortunate to be able to stumble on to the gold mine that you did. >> yeah, i was fortunate, yes, thank you. i had something i was going to add -- what what was it? oh, i know what i wanted to tell you. after the war ended, my grandmother had three of her five sons fight in world war ii, and at the end. she had, of course, stacks of letters. they wrote to her at least once a week. it's remarkable. now, it seems unbelievable, but she took all their letters, took them to a typist, and she had them typed up, and she bound them in red leather so she had these sort of wonderful official
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momentos from the war. i learned, by doing the research, she did a little bit of editing of the letters. [laughter] i found -- i actually did find the original letters, and edited anything to do with the woman he was in love with when he went overseas, how that relationship end ended. this little encounter in cape town, completely removed from the official record. [laughter] of course, you have to think about how they -- how they adjusted what they wrote for the -- to take into account the feeling of the folks at home. i mean, i kept, you know, they seemed remarkably, all of them seemed remarkably cheerful in reading the letters. i'm sure that's partly who they were, that they put the best face on things by nature. that's the way they were brought up, and that's the way they handled things, but i also had to think about how much they were putting a bright face on
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the situation because they didn't want to worry their parents and brothers and sisters. and the letters would be circulated, of course, go to the mother, then to the sister, the aunt, the uncle, and everybody would get a chance to catch up on what was happening. you wonder what'll happen. historians, i think, are maybe a little worried about what'll happen in the era where so little is put down on paper. save your e-mails. can you imagine saving all of your e-mails? yeah? >> two questions. one is whether the letters were censored? the other is i take it from what you're saying that they didn't say much about how they dealt with the prospect of being under fire successive days. i'll take them one at a time. i guess all the mail was censored. it was one of their jobs as officer was to censored the
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letters of the men in the enlisted companies. they got so they knew it and wrote around it kind of. my uncle dreamed up a code he sharedded with his mother that would mean, letting her know when he went to the front. he was going to see the wizard of oz. so when she got the note i'm off to see the wizard, she got nervous. she knew where he was headed. they would have, like, when they landed in manchester, he said to his mother, i arrived in the city where charles mclain lives. well, he lived in manchester, new hampshire. he couldn't say specifics, but they found ways to get around that, and the second was how did they talk about sustained combat -- is that -- >> make thingsñi look nice to te families. did they talk, emotionally, how they dealt with being under
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fire, knowing they would be the next day, and doing it the next day, and the day after that and the day after that? >> well, i can tell you that the letters became sparser when they were in combat. i mean, they spent a lot of time waiting around for combat. what i know about that i learnedded from the letters they wrote later, the four of the five of them were in the hospital. they had a lot of time to write letters. they didn't talk too much about how they dealt with fear. more they talk about how hard it was to start losing men. that seemed to be the thing that really impressed them, and it was difficult, and that was something i think they could share. my uncle talked once looking forward to going -- another moment he knew they would be encountering the enemy, and how he thought about it, and he used this really mundane metaphor.
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saying it sort of like he referred to a swimming hole in vermont where he liked to swim in the summer. he said it was like being at 20 foot and wanting to jump and also not wanting to jump. that's about as close as -- now, i have jack's journal he kept all the way through the time in north africa, but it was very telegraphic when he was actually in combat. it was slept the night in the cave. you know, nothing but a restless shiver. little things like that. fierce fire. very not a lot of intraspection there i don't think. that helpful? >> yeah. >> great. sorry, go ahead. >> clearly, the group was driven by faith as you suggested and patriotism as you called it, and
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did you come across class issues, the imperatives of that thing because they all belonged to a certain social strata? i actually thought about that, but it's the imperative could come from being part of a group, a social group in the country. there's a certain class structure. did you come across that? >> well, i don't think they would have -- they wouldn't have articulated it like that, but they were conscious of being leaders. i mean, they were leaders in their schools. i thought -- i think they were conscious of coming from sort of families that had contributed to the country and taking the lead. >> certain expectations. >> so, exactly. they felt it was their duty to
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take the lead if there was a cause they felt. yes, i think they felt they needed to do something. i think it's laid out in two ways. i think my uncle felt he wanted to do something extraordinary. i mean, he couldn't imagine himself not doing something that was important. i'm not sure why that was. there was a sense they were privileged in many ways. they had wonderful education, had enough to eat, and with privilege came an obligation as a citizen to do what you believe was right, not just for yourself, but for the country as a whole. i think -- is that what you're getting at? >> that was my assumption. >> yeah. >> there's a big change in that in a certain kind of of way over 75 years as a culture shift in that regard. >> i would agree with that, yeah. >> i mean, obviously, the social structures are different. >> or people in privileged
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positions don't think they are so it makes it hard of yourself to be only gait -- obligated or being a leader or owing anything i think. >> that was in places with deep roots in colonial history, and huge expectations. >> well, i do talk in the author's note in the beginning about how we grew up with all of these stories about the ancestors who would do remarkable things like roger sherman who signed the institution, and the fellow who enlisted in the union captain cox in the civil war, and william m. efforts who defended andrew johnson when he was impeached. you had a feeling you haded too something special. i guess this is as close as i've ever gotten. [laughter] that is part of it. yeah, i mean, the downside is
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superiority which is not something i don't think to be proud of, but -- >> well, could be. >> may i ask an aside? >> yeah. >> your family's response to the uncle's notoriety and status in the country? >> you mean, after watergate? >> just wished it to go away? >> no, i think they were proud of him, just fulfilled everybody's expectations about nixon, and timely, it had come to that. my grandmother did -- worried, you know, felt something wrong had been done to the son, and what she was saying was, well, at least i'm not that richard nixon's mother. [laughter]
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>> rich l, -- rachel, the combat scenes are rivetting, but were you knowledgeable about the tactical way all of these battles in africa played out? were you familiar with world war ii? overview of history, because how did you -- how do you educate yourself? >> that's ad dpoo question. -- that's a good question. it was hard. a lot of reading and rereading and rereading again just to become familiar with it. i also had a wonderful adviser and a man named christopher wallace, sir general sir kris tore wallace, chairman of the boferred at the royal -- kings royal corp. in england, unbelievably generous talking me
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through the accounts of the battles. the british, of course, not to make any generalizations, are great about recording everything in their history, and so the details of the battle were there, but they where are seen by the company commander of the colonel on the ground who liked telling a good story and wanted it to seem like they were hail and hardy guys who had a good day of fun in the battlefield which is not what it was like. i had to sort of put that through the filter of other histories and bring them -- try to bring all together, and i did also find several excellent memoirs that described -- i mean, one man in the same -- whose company was next to my uncles who described what he saw, felt, and heard, and i made the assumption that was pretty much what my uncle saw, felt,
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and heard so i was able to kind of get a first person account, which helped a lot, but it did take a little time to get the gist. anyone else? >> what was it like for you emotionally to meet this uncle that you never met? >> you mean the uncle robby? >> i didn't mean him. >> that's what i mean. meeting him, but never actually meet him. >> it was moving. it was wonderful to feel the family siring -- circle feels complete to me now. not literally as i took your question, sorry. you were listening. that was satisfying. i felt like i learned a lot about my grandmother who i was very close to. my fare a bit. then, when i was in tunisia, i
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finally went to visit his grave, which no one in my family had done before, which was really pretty amazing experience. it just filled in this missing place, and i felt good that he had had a visitor from the family. sounds kind of crazy, but in -- in the british war cemeteries, i guess they invited family members to choose something to be written on the gravestones, and some -- i mean, you can hardly bear to walk around the cemeteries because some of them are so heart felt, but what my grandmother chose was a passage from st. john in the new testament. for my brothers and companions' sakes, i will strive to do thee good. i also crieded -- cried a lot, but it crystallized, really, the mystery of how he was, number
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one, how he was able to do this thing, and, also, how my grandmother was able to handle it. i mean, it's terrible to think about. she kind of saw it as something that was part of his character, that he needed to do, and that he did for the greater good, and that's how she managed to live with it for -- yeah. >> what was your pace like when you were writing the book? like, were there places that, you know, you were really galloping and rushing along, and were there other places where, you know, it might have been a slower pace or where, you know, you sensed it might have been a bit uphill. >> well, there were more or less procrastination. is that what you're saying? [laughter] no, no, with writing, of course, you start -- in my experience, you start slow, and you find the place you have to kind of cast
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around and experiment and then you timely -- it's like you find the track that's going to take you where you want to go, and them you move faster and faster, and that part is the thrilling part, of course, although, sometimes you get to the end, and then you go back, and then you discover you have to do it all over again. that happened many times. i threw away a lot i had written. it also picks up a lot once you have a book contract i discovered. when there's actually somebody -- when there's somebody waiting for what you've written. you have to pick up the pace, and you have to force it, which is good. you get better sitting in the chair. you get better at not calling your friends because you can't think of the words. that kind of thing so does that answer your question? >> [inaudible] >> okay. >> was nip alive when you wrote the book? >> this is the sadst part about writing the book. hayward cutting was still alive.
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one of the ways i started was he was a friend of one of my aunts, told me how to get in touch with him, e e-mailed me, and i would write him. i started out with a letter, here's who i am. i want to talk to you. he'd write back and say i'm not well. i really -- i'm too old, i can't remember anything useful. just leave it as it is. a little later, i think, well what journalist am i? i got to talk to this guy. i'd write him again, and just, you know, he made it clear he didn't want to talk, and i made the decision not to force myself op him. i did find his sister, however, who was happy to talk about him and told me how difficult he'd always been. [laughter] that made me feel better, and she gave me a lot of information. one of the interest things is people forget, of course, we all know, as we get older, we forget
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what happened, and whenever i feel discouraged, i never got to -- of course, i would have like to meet hayward just to tell him how much i admired him and republicked him -- respected him and what i knew about him, but -- oh, i lost my train of thought. when i get discouraged about the fact that i never got to talk to him, i remind me whatever he told me, i would never know if it was accurate or not, and i got a lot of information through, shall we say, accounts written at the time, and i depended op them, and so as far as getting the true story, i'm not sure i lost out that much, although, it makes me sad i could never shake his hand, but he died in march so no more chances. of this year, live to be 90 years old. he was younger than the others. he was 19 when he went overseas. he just